Statement to the media
June 15, 2018

Thorough and comprehensive analysis of the data and evidence makes clear that Harvard College does not discriminate against applicants from any group, including Asian-Americans, whose rate of admission has grown 29% over the last decade. Mr. Blum and his organization’s incomplete and misleading data analysis paint a dangerously inaccurate picture of Harvard College’s whole-person admissions process by omitting critical data and information factors, such as personal essays and teacher recommendations, that directly counter his arguments.

Harvard will continue to vigorously defend our right, and that of other colleges and universities nationwide, to seek the educational benefits that come from a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions, from its capacity for academic excellence to its ability to help create a campus community that gives every student the opportunity to learn from peers with a wide variety of academic interests, perspectives, and talents.

Harvard Motion for Summary Judgment
Harvard Statement of Material Facts
Harvard expert report
Harvard expert rebuttal to SFFA report
Harvard filings - FAQ
Harvard President Drew Faust on Defending Diversity

Admissions Case

When evaluating applicants from among the large pool of academically qualified students who seek a place in the freshman class, Harvard—like many of the country’s colleges and universities— considers the whole person, not just an applicant’s grades and test scores

In November 2014, an organization created by anti-race conscious admissions activist Edward Blum calling itself Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) sued Harvard, alleging that the University discriminates against Asian-Americans and seeking to prevent Harvard College and other colleges and universities from using a wide-ranging and thorough admissions process that considers the whole person.

The following spring, in a parallel effort, a group of individuals also lodged a complaint against Harvard with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice. The Department of Education evaluated and dismissed the complaint during the summer of 2015. In late 2017, under the Trump administration, the Department of Justice reopened the investigation. The Department of Education complaint remains closed.

These actions are the continuation of a series of challenges to the consideration of race in admissions in higher education orchestrated by Mr. Blum. In 2008, some of the same individuals launched a similar lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin. The Supreme Court upheld UT’s admissions policies in 2016, reaffirming the value of creating a diverse student body and allowing university officials to consider the whole person, including each person’s individual background and life experiences, when making admission decisions among academically qualified applicants.

If the lawsuit against Harvard succeeds, it would diminish students’ opportunities to live and learn in a diverse campus environment—denying them the kind of experiences that are central to Harvard’s educational mission and critical for success in our diverse society.

Harvard College does not discriminate against applicants from any group in its admissions processes. We will continue to vigorously defend the right of Harvard, and other colleges and universities, to seek the educational benefits that come from a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions, from its capacity for academic excellence to its ability to help create a campus community that gives each student the opportunity to learn from peers with a wide variety of academic interests, perspectives, and talents.

Additional resources

How does Harvard College select students for admission?

Harvard seeks to assemble an extraordinary and diverse class of undergraduate students by conducting a wide-ranging review of every aspect of each applicant’s background and experience. Our admissions process values academic excellence, but never reduces applicants to any one factor, such as grades or test scores. Decisions to admit an applicant are made by the full, 40-person admissions committee through which each member has one vote.

The College treats each applicant as an individual, and holds an expansive view of excellence; the admissions committee looks at the whole person and considers each applicant’s unique background and experiences, alongside grades and test scores, to find applicants of exceptional ability and character, who can help create a campus community that is diverse on multiple dimensions (including on academic and extracurricular interests, race, socioeconomic background, and life experiences), and who can take advantage of all that Harvard offers and contribute to the learning and social environment for their classmates. Factors such as life experiences, overcoming adversity, or specific talents are particularly important in deciding who will be offered admission.

Key statistics

Applicant academic qualifications A large percentage of applicants are academically qualified to be admitted to Harvard. For example, each year, far more applicants have perfect SAT verbal scores or perfect SAT math scores than are admitted. While academic ability is important and necessary, and transcends test scores and GPAs, for applicants who are academically qualified, other factors bear significantly on admissions decisions.

In a recent admissions cycle (in which fewer than 2,000 applicants out of approximately 40,000 were admitted):

  • Over 8,000 domestic applicants had perfect GPAs
  • Over 3,400 applicants had perfect SAT math scores
  • Over 2,700 applicants had perfect SAT verbal scores 

Applicant pool In recent years, there has been a steady increase in applicants across racial categories. Over the past decade, the share of the Harvard admitted class that is Asian-American has grown by 29% – from 17.6% to 22.7%. This is twice the growth rate of—for example—Hispanic* admitted students, which have increased their share of the class by 12% over that same period. The percentage of the class that is Asian-American fluctuates from year-to-year, though with overall growth. For example, the admitted class of 2016 had 16.3% more Asian-American students than the admitted class of 2015, while the admitted class of 2017 had 3.9% fewer Asian-American students than the admitted class of 2016.

* This website refers to Hispanic applicants for consistency with the manner in which these data were collected.